Day 15 of Gavin Smith’s fundraising ride for Ecojustice starts with a nightmare worthy of the horror film genre. It only gets worse as Gavin’s sleep is further interrupted by some local songbirds. Gavin gets an Ashland history lesson on Day 16 and meets some fine folk, one of whom plays folk.

Day 15
June 25
Distance Travelled: 85.39 km (Curry Park campground, Ironwood, Michigan)

Woke up at 4:30 a.m. dreaming that I heard a car pull up and someone start unzipping my tent. I was so sure it was real, I yelled at them and pulled on my shirt inside out. Nope. Still a deserted campground. It took forever to fall back asleep because of all the birds singing, I’ve never heard anything like it. Not just one type of bird, dozens of different songs sung by hundreds and hundreds of birds. One even landed on my tent. It was amazing and even a little disorienting, but began to lose its appeal after about a half hour of not sleeping.

About two thirds of the way through my biking day I crossed an international time zone into central time, which was exciting. One down, two to go. I found a campsite in the town of Ironwood, in Michigan right at the Wisconsin border. The time change meant I arrived early, so I went into town for a beer at a nearly empty tavern (I had Blue Moon, a Weiss beer that was excellent in the heat that had built up). Then I went to see Green Lantern at the cinema and ate way too many chocolate-covered raisins. The movie was decidedly less than excellent, but in a way that was exactly what I wanted.

Day 16
June 26
Distance Travelled: 78.99 km (Joel and Jenny’s house, just west of Ashland, Wisconsin)

I crossed into Wisconsin as soon as I left Ironwood and spent the afternoon in the bike-friendly town of Ashland. There’s a waterfront bike trail for miles along Lake Superior, where I sat on a bench looking out at a lighthouse and had sourdough, cheddar cheese and oranges for lunch. Pretty soon a dude named Dan pulled up his bike and sat next to me on the bench, giving me Ashland’s abridged history.

Ashland had been a shipping town for lumber and ore, but its population had shrunk with the decline of those industries. I went into town for a hot fudge sundae. I took my sundae down to the water and ate it standing barefoot in the lake. Unfortunately the beach was right next to a coal storage facility. Bits of coal littered the shore and clung to my legs when I got out of the water.

I biked to Joel and Jenny’s along County Highway G, a beautiful country road that took me through farmland like you see it in movies, rolling hills laced with forest. Joal and Jenny were working in the garden. They picked some garlic tops and we ate them with bright yellow scrambled eggs from their chickens (one of which was recently eaten by a bear).

Jenny was a travelling home care nurse and also a musician with a couple self-produced albums. She was coaxed into playing one for me and it was a nice calm kind of folk. Joel used to work at a bike shop in town and had a crazy Surly snow bike. He told me about a race he did in Minnesota this January where you bike 135 miles (about 215 km) in minus 20 weather along snowmobile paths. He did it in 33 hours, without sleeping. A friend of his had done the race in a musher’s suit, which got pretty sweaty. He needed a break at one of the rest stop teepees, so he climbed out of his suit and into his sleeping bag almost naked. When he woke up the suit was frozen solid and he had to climb back into it in his underwear to thaw it out with his body. Sounds like a good time.

I’m unsure that stepping into a frozen musher’s suit in -20 degree weather in my underwear is my idea of “a good time.” Then again I’m also stuck at a computer most of the day. Tomorrow’s installment of Gavin’s ride will see him return to his 100 km/day pace and includes a serving of ice cream and pie. Check back here tomorrow to see what flavour.